grantees » J. Mani, 1973

J. Mani , India

“My name is J. Mani and I belong to the Kurumba tribe. I began to understand the difficulties faced by the indigenous communities in the Nilgiris and started voicing my concern.” Mani is dedicated to uplifting the indigenous people in the hilly Nilgiris area through sustainable development. He feels that his greatest achievement is his founding of the Nilgiri Kalachara Sangam (Nilgiri Cultural Association). With the help of youths from the Kurumba community, the Sangam focuses on land rights, negotiating with government development schemes, and a small savings fund for the village. Its second approach is based on the strengthening of traditional agriculture, culture and traditions, specifically relating to the usage of natural resources. 

Using the JWH initiative grant, Mani conducted field research about the Kurumba population, including economic, health, and education surveys. This spurred him forward; “After this survey we realized that we need to work more on this community.” Mani also took a basic computer course and an English course, which were instrumental in the advancement of his Sangam. He also learnt about photography and videography to improve communications.Today, I am working independently with indigenous communities to build awareness to getting basic rights of the communities. I have been able to make reports on the needs and issues of the community and liase with stakeholders to get rights for the community. I have been able document our traditional folklore and songs. I also have been able to share this with government officials.” Similarly, he set up an office for the Nilgiri Kalachara Sangam to run the Association and also to accommodate students who come from remote, inaccessible villages who are on their way to school. Mani was also able to conduct field visits to other NGOs working with indigenous communities, such as the ITWWS working with the Irula tribe, which focuses on the empowerement of women by encouraging the harvesting and sale of traditional herbal medicines. Mani feels he has learnt a lot that could be applied to his native Nilgiri region. In future, Mani would like to continue to explore more innovative methods to encourage and develop the wellbeing of the indigenous communities and their environment, and especially about how they can be promoted to become leaders in their own conservation.

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